PwC comments on November 2020 ONS retail sales figures

Dec 18, 2020

Commenting on the Office of National Statistics retail sales figures for November 2020

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said:

“With shops closed across much of the country in November, it’s no surprise that headline retail sales declined by 3.0% compared with October. But, as ever, the devil is in the detail. Compared with last November, overall sales increased by a staggering 4.7% excluding petrol, even after the ONS had adjusted for Black Friday falling slightly earlier this year.

“This suggests an underlying resilience in the British consumer, underpinned by the fact that many have yet to be financially impacted by the pandemic, and in fact may even be saving money, according to our consumer sentiment research undertaken in the middle of the month.

“How did consumers continue to spend despite the high street being shut down? Online retail bounced back to 31.4% of sales, a level not seen since June, showing how comfortable consumers are with pivoting to their phones and PCs when unable to shop physically.

“In fact, in some categories, this overwhelming demand for products means that stock may even be in short supply. We’ve already found that the scale of the  pre-Christmas discounting that we’ve been accustomed to in previous years as shops clear seasonal stock, is likely to be absent this year.

“But it’s not good news for every sector. As recent administrations have confirmed, fashion continues to experience an annus horribilis, with a monthly volume decline of almost 20%. Without Christmas parties and family gatherings to go to this year, lack of demand for new outfits continues to shine a light on overcapacity in this category.

“As we look ahead to the rest of the month, retailers will be hoping that the momentum online in November carries through into physical shops in the final countdown to Christmas.”


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